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Monday, October 25, 2010

Striving for excellence

Mikhail Treyvish, president of monitoring agency OmniGrade and a member of Marchmont’s Advisory Board. The blogger can be reached at:

I just returned from Madrid; I hadn’t been there for three years. Arresting my attention were more paupers on the streets than before; the streets themselves were sort of unclean. I saw all the signs of problems Spain has been facing in its effort to combat the most recent financial crisis—the crisis that has brought that country 17% unemployment and the status of one of Europe’s ailing economies, discouragingly abbreviated as PIIGS.

But there is a lucky exception in Spain, an eye-catching stroke on a crisis-painted picture of financial doom and gloom. It is Santander, now the Euro zone’s largest bank by capitalization—the level it has reached without any government bailout so widespread among its more prominent European colleagues (and who knows – maybe thanks to that). Now Santander is not only the Spaniards’ pride; it’s their hope too.

The Santander example is evidence that all people are equal—in the sense that each of us has a chance to become an entrepreneur and build the world’s best business irrespective of whether one enjoys any recognition in his country, region or village, or not.

Micro-financing came as a business from Bangladesh; Nokia from Finland—once barely known in the hi-tech world—grew to become one of the largest international telecoms; one of the global majors (and the leader in Germany, for instance) in antivirus software is now Kaspersky Lab from commodity-dominated Russia.

It is not so complex to be number one in the world—striving for excellence is what it takes. To be the best you must be daring and prudent. Daring—in generating new ideas and new products; prudent—in choosing partners and spending resources. And if your company has become number one globally, it will undoubtedly be number one, say, in Nizhny Tagil. It’s not so guaranteed the other way round.

I, for one, am also an entrepreneur running a small rating agency. I’m working to make it the world’s best by simply striving for excellence—trying to outstrip in quality such majors as, for example, Standard & Poor’s or Moody’s.

I met with the director of a Russian company that makes ice-cream some time ago. His company is working towards leadership in the European market—because relevant EU regulators have officially recognized their ice-cream one of Europe’s best. I could set further examples that I know of, but I’m sure there are more examples still unknown to me.

During his most recent visit to Russia Jack Welch said that what Russian entrepreneurs lacked most was courage. We need the above examples to get more daring, while prudence is what life itself teaches us.